Will video games make desktop Linux into a killer consumer platform?

I had an interesting email exchange over the weekend with a reader of this blog who was wondering if video game producers targeted desktop Linux as platform then would this significantly increase adoption of Linux over Windows? Alternatively, those same producers could help ensure that their games worked under Windows emulators such as Wine.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s exclude running Windows under a virtual machine on Linux, or even on the Mac. After all, that’s really just running the game on Windows.

People who are serious about computer-based (vs. console-based) video games often build and upgrade their own machines, making custom choices for the case, the power supply, the motherboard, the processor, the video card(s), the memory, water cooling systems, not to mention hard drives, DVD reader/writer, Blu-ray readers, sound cards, speakers, and miscellaneous cables. These days you’re probably strongly considering an Intel i7 quad core machine and have deep and troubling thoughts over whether a one terrabyte hard disk will be enough.

You can get by with less, of course, but this if what serious computer gamers think about. Gaming pcs can run from $1500 up through $4000 or more. Again, you can get by with less, but serious motherboards, processors, and video can cost you more that $700 together, just to start.

Almost all commercial computer games run on Windows and a handful run on Macs. Almost all of the online MMORPGs like World of Warcraft run on Windows and a couple run on the Mac. There are healthy communities of people who are working on games for Linux. See, for example LinuxGames or this collection of Linux game listings.

A problem with thinking about Linux replacing Windows as the operating system for games is that many Windows gamers bemoan the fact that many if not most of the really cool new games are coming out on consoles and then only later, maybe, become available on the PC. If we take this to be the case, you have to ask not just “can Linux replace Windows for PC games?” but “can Linux replace Windows for PC games and stop the flight of games to consoles like the PS 3, Wii, and Xbox 360?”

That’s a much taller order and also forces the question “why are you chasing a market that is declining?”

Possible answers are:

  • You really think you can reverse the trend.
  • There is so much money to be made in this possibly declining market that it is still worth it.
  • You really believe this is the right thing to do.

I am by no means advocating against doing really cool games on Linux and using open source to advance the state of the art in games and all they entail, such as artificial intelligence, extendability, multiple players, and so on. Do it!

But do it because you want to, because it motivates you, and you think the people who play your games will have a great time. I doubt there is a huge fortune to be made, and that is certainly ok too, but do be realistic.

What do you think, will Linux take over the world of PC-based video games?

Also see: Open source game engines for Linux.

2010 Community Leadership Summit

Via Jono Bacon, I just learned about the 2010 Community Leadership Summit on July 18 and 19 in Portland, OR:

The event provides the first opportunity of its kind to bring together the leading minds in the field with new community builders to discuss topics such as governance, creating collaborative environments, conflict resolution, transparency, open infrastructure, social networking, commercial investment in community, engineering vs. marketing approaches to community leadership and much more.

Registration is not quite open, but stay tuned to the web page.

Daily Links for Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Open Source

Open Source House: designing eco-affordable housing together

Open Source House (OS-House) is a non-profit organization that aims to provide better, more sustainable housing in low-income countries. 8 Design principles are utilized by OS-House to guarantee standards of sustainability, and meet the challenge of flexibility, ensuring that all designs can be locally embedded. Establish your name, and contribute your ideas and designs in our first design competition starting on the 15th of January 2010. The competition results will be shared on the OS-House platform thereby marking the beginning of this ongoing project.

Hundreds flock to open source software conference
The National Business Review – New Zealand / Kelly Gregor

Hundreds of technology enthusiasts from around the world will attend a week-long open source software conference that began in Wellington today. More 700 delegates are expected to attend the Linux conference, which will discuss the future and viability of open source software and its implications for governments and businesses.


Searching for gold: how to fund your indie video game
Ars Technica / Michael Thompson

It’s never easy to secure financial support for an independent game project, but it’s even harder right now. Ars takes a look at some different ways to get funding for your project.

Press Release: “IBM Client for Smart Work Available Through Business Partners in India”

Here’s a another press release from today involving IBM, Symphony, Lotus Live, Ubuntu Linux, and Virtual Bridges. We’re continuing the rollout of the partner-led IBM Client for Smart Work:

IBM Client for Smart Work CD

IBM Client for Smart Work Available Through Business Partners in India

ORLANDO, FL & BANGALORE, India – 18 Jan 2010: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced the immediate availability of IBM Client for Smart Work in India through business partners. The IBM Client for Smart Work, IBM and Canonical’s popular cloud-and Linux-based desktop package, is designed to help companies do more with less and lower desktop computing costs by up to 50 percent. CIO’s, IT directors and IT architects from all types of organizations in India, even those that typically cannot afford new PCs, can now gain immediate access to collaboration capabilities to help them work smarter, with the simple download of the IBM Client for Smart Work onto various thin clients, such as netbooks and other devices.

“Government leaders, CEOs and CIOs are seeking an open, cost effective and collaboration rich client strategy to leapfrog into the 21st century,” said Pradeep Nair, director of IBM India Software Group. “The IBM Client for Smart Work solution brings together the strengths of cloud-based collaboration, virtual desktops, netbook devices and open source, supported by a strong ecosystem of business partners, to help Indian innovators harness the next wave of growth.”

The collaboration package runs on Ubuntu Linux operating system available from Canonical and provides the option to deliver collaboration through the Web in a cloud service model. The Client comes with IBM Lotus Symphony, IBM LotusLive iNotes/Connections and IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, with the option to add IBM Lotus Connections and IBM WebSphere Portal, as well as virtual desktop capabilities using VERDE from Virtual Bridges.

With the mounting interest in this solution, IBM today also announced that Simmtronics Semiconductors will ship their new Simmbooks (netbooks) with IBM Client for Smart Work on Ubuntu already preloaded to clients in India, US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, UK, and Vietnam.” We launched Simmbooks based on the high demand for netbook type devices for enterprises worldwide,” said Indrajit Sabharwal, managing director, Simmtronics Semiconductors. “Delivering Simmbooks with IBM Client for Smart Work on Ubuntu will help our customers lower their total cost of ownership and be on the forefront of innovation.”

Press Release: “Canonical Offers Dedicated Support Program for Lotus Symphony …”

Canonical announced the following today via a press release:

Canonical Offers Dedicated Support Program for Lotus Symphony, the Core Component of IBM Client for Smart Work on Ubuntu

Canonical today announced a dedicated support program for Lotus Symphony, the no-charge office productivity alternative which is a core component of IBM Client for Smart Work (ICSW) on Ubuntu.

(PRWEB) January 18, 2010 — Canonical today announced a dedicated support program for Lotus Symphony, the no-charge office productivity alternative which is a core component of IBM Client for Smart Work (ICSW) on Ubuntu. This support is made available to customers by Canonical through the IBM and Canonical partner network. Organisations can now switch to an alternative platform from Microsoft for their business productivity needs with full confidence that the core solution is fully supported.

The IBM Client for Smart Work, based on IBM productivity and collaboration software, helps organisations save up to 50 percent per seat on software costs versus a Microsoft-based desktop, in addition to avoiding requisite hardware upgrades. The package allows companies to use their existing PCs, lower-cost netbooks and thin clients.

See the press release for the rest of the announcement.

Lotusphere photos: Ubuntu’s Peter Woodward and Tux

Here’s the next round of photos from Lotusphere 2010.

Pete Woodward of Canonical/Ubuntu

Here’s Peter Woodward of Canonical/Ubuntu and me. Light could have been better, but you take what you can get in a meeting room.


Next is our friendly penguin friend sporting an “IBM Client for Smart Work” label. Get yours starting tomorrow at the Lotus Knows challenge immediately upon entering the exhibit hall at the bottom of the escalator.

Two very early Lotusphere 2010 photos

Here are a couple of photographs taken very early at Lotusphere 2010 at Disney World in Florida this week and they are, perhaps, a bit different.

Hammock by the beach at Disney World

This was a lonely hammock by the beach looking toward the Grand Floridian Resort. The weather was very overcast and it threatened to rain for seeral hours before it finally did around 9 PM. There were some people walking around because, well, it is Florida, though not too many were swimming in the pool.

Corn pen

This pen, a give-away in the exhibit area for the IBM Client for Smart Work on Linux, is made from corn starch and is biodegradable. Get yours before they go in the compost pile.

Daily Links for Friday, January 15, 2010

Virtual Worlds

Power users holding back Second Life?
Hypergrid Business / Maria Korolov

Second Life is being held back by an “elite group” of users, according to Forrester Research, Inc. analyst Tom Grant. There is an “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” Grant wrote this week. “Over time, a subset of customers emerge who participate regularly in user group meetings, discussion forums, the comments sections of blogs, groups in social media channels, and other channels of face-to-face and electronic communication.”


Nils Lofgren Online Guitar School

Questions to ask about open source projects

So you’ve heard about this great piece of open source software and you are considering either contributing to it or using it a very serious way, maybe even a business critical way. What are some of the questions you should be asking about the project?

  • Is it good code and is it well architected?
  • Who are the founders, contributors, and users?
  • What are the motivations and behavior of each?
  • What is the form and governance of the community?
  • Is there a single dominant player that is controlling the direction or is it a more democratic community?
  • Are there intellectual property issues involving copyrights or code provenance?
  • What about that license?

You need the confidence that the code and the community that supports it is fit for your purpose, are sufficiently stable, and have no “gotchas.” That is, there should be no surprises around the intellectual property involved and no unexpected strangeness around the community and its leadership.

What other things do you look for and what other advice you would give along these lines?

Daily Links for Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Another day, another SUSE/Moblin Linux netbook
ComputerWorld / Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

In all the hurly-burly of CES, a second SUSE/Moblin Linux netbook was quietly released. This one comes from Samsung.

Red Hat repurchases $33.4M of shares
Triangle Business Journal

Red Hat repurchased more than 1 million shares of company stock for $33.4 million from Dec. 1 through Jan. 8, the company revealed in filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


Now, Electronics That Obey Hand Gestures
The New York Times / Ashlee Vance

In the coming months, the likes of Microsoft, Hitachi and major PC makers will begin selling devices that will allow people to flip channels on the TV or move documents on a computer monitor with simple hand gestures. The technology, one of the most significant changes to human-device interfaces since the mouse appeared next to computers in the early 1980s, was being shown in private sessions during the immense Consumer Electronics Show here last week. Past attempts at similar technology have proved clunky and disappointing. In contrast, the latest crop of gesture-powered devices arrives with a refreshing surprise: they actually work.